Utica, IL – The Islamic Community of Utica’s Imam has reappointed himself as leader and chairperson of this year’s Ramadan moon sighting committee. Imam Jameel Hammoudi, who was also committee chair last year, stirred up a fair share of controversy with his decisions on both the start and end dates of Ramadan. The Imam, who has been blind for his entire life, adheres to the visual confirmation method for determining the start of the Islamic months. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, the Islamic calendar correlates to the lunar phases of the moon. The Imam asserts that his method follows historic tradition and rejects any suggestion to follow pre-determined phases of the moon that are based on astronomical calculations.
However, both members of his own community and outside observers remain perplexed by his self-proclaimed position and confidence with his decisions. Last year, the Imam did not declare the start of Ramadan until 17 days after the rest of the Muslim world, and subsequently declared Eid-ul-Fitr (the end of Ramadan) at the end of November, citing that he could not confirm any credible moon sighting report. Members of his community endured a Ramadan that lasted three and a half months.
Islamica News interviewed the Imam a week before the start of this year’s Ramadan. The following is the transcript of that conversation:
IN: Thank you for your taking the time for an interview. We know it’s a busy time of year for you being so close to the start of the holy month.
Imam: Start of holy month? Who said this? Not even close, no.
IN: Imam, your position is stirring up a lot of controversy in the community, around a subject that is already shrouded in so much controversy. People think it’s quite a paradox that you’re leading a committee in charge of moon sighting given that you’re –
Imam: [Cutting off] Given that I’m an interpretive dance instructor? I’ve had a passion for interpretive dance ever since birth. That’s the card I was dealt. However, I don’t let that interfere with the primary responsibilities to my community. People can talk all they want, it’s a male only class.
IN: We were going to say, given your condition…
Imam: Rumors. Those boys were all 18. There is not a label for this.
IN: Your community members are confused and some are even critical of your decisions around the sighting of the moon. Last year you were asked why you hadn’t declared Ramadan yet, even though it was fifteen days in and there was a full moon right behind you at the time you were questioned about it.
Imam: SHI’AH RIGHT – And I’m the pope… WMDs in Iraq my *expletive*. Where was the evidence of this moon?
IN: There’s a picture of you and the moon from last year’s press conference.
Imam: I hear there is a store you can go to that makes fake pictures. I think it’s called a photoshop.
IN: The picture was authentic. Even if one were to assume that your starting date was accurate, by your logic, Ramadan lasted 119 days. Ramadan can only last a maximum of 30 days. How can you defend this decision?
Imam: I still haven’t seen any evidence of a moon sighting. The tradition is that if you see the moon with your naked eye, stop fasting. I didn’t see it.
IN: See it with your naked eye? Imam, you’re blind. How can you justify your decisions, let alone your position?
Imam: What?!? I’m blind?!? Well thank you Captain Obvious! You don’t think I’m reminded of that every morning when I wake up and walk over to my eye chart?
IN: We apologize for any disrespect Imam. Skipping the irony of the eye chart in your room, a big part of the controversy that surrounds you is that you’re just not qualified for the position you’ve appointed yourself to. How do you defend this?
Imam: Does it really make any one more qualified because that person can see, or have access to fancy telescopic machinery? Even without me, is there still not controversy?
IN: Ummm –
Imam:[Cutting off] – Back when I was a small child there was a show called a Romper Room, where a woman, who clearly exhibited western values, would look into the camera and read off names of kids she could see in ‘televisionland.’ Did she ever once say she could see Jameel? Hell no!
IN: To be fair, she didn’t really see any of those kids.
Imam: Exactly my point! Everyone’s full of crap!
IN: So that’s your defense? Romper Room?
Imam: Romper, bomper, stomper boo.
IN: Imam, we’d like to thank you for your time with Islamica News.
Imam:Islamica News? You’re not Peter Jennings. This is not ABC?
IN: Peter Jennings died nine years ago.
Imam: Get out of my house.